Conclusions and next steps:
As the case studies in this report demonstrate, communities are using technology to effectively engage typically underrepresented groups. Based on the experiences of these communities, PlaceMatters has identified some of the factors that seem critical for successfully selecting and deploying the best suite of tools for engaging targeted groups. Rigorous evaluation of these efforts has been limited, however. In some cases, communities need to collect additional data to more accurately determine who is participating, and to meaningfully compare the costs and benefits associated with different tools or outreach methods. For example, better information on demographics and cost per participant associated with hosting public meetings versus engaging residents through online or mobile technologies can help communities use limited resources more efficiently, and to target more expensive outreach methods to specific groups that may be
difficult to engage otherwise. Partnerships with academia could help address this need for additional data collection and analysis.
Open Plans and Living Cities also identified the need for a more robust tool or application marketplace. While PlaceMatters and Code for America both host lists of available tools for civic engagement, there is still insufficient information sharing among agencies, tool providers, developers, and potential users. Consequently, several tools exist that have similar functions and technologies but the communities using these tools are not learning from each other’s successes and challenges. A better network of the various players involved in civic technology would improve the ability of tools to meet engagement needs, including outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups.